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More 500GB notebook drives: Seagate 7200.4 & Hitachi 5K500.B

More 500GB notebook drives: Seagate Momentus 7200.4 & Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B

November 5, 2009 by Lawrence Lee and Mike Chin

Product
Seagate Momentus 7200.4 ST9500420AS 7200rpm 500GB 2.5" HDD
Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B HTS545050B9A 5400rpm 500GB 2.5" HDD
Sample Supplier
Hitachi
Street Price
US$100~140 US$90~100

Half a terabyte was the upper limit for bare notebook drives early last spring. We reviewed 5400rpm models of this capacity from Seagate and Western Digital back in March. The 500GB ceiling held through the summer, but in the last month or two, it has been breached. WD now offers 2.5" drives at 640GB, 750GB, and 1TB capacity, although it must be noted that the latter two are not in the usual 9.5mm thick form factor, but a little thicker at 12.5mm. Seagate has portable storage devices using 2.5" drives of higher capacities — 640GB, 750GB, 880GB and 1TB — but its bare notebook drive options remain limited to 500GB maximum. Among Seagate's higher capacity external storage models, only the 640GB model appears to have standard thickness; like the WD bare drives, the rest are thicker. The added thickness suggests that the higher capacity has been achieved with more than the usual 2-platters, perhaps three or even four. Most notebook computers will not accept the thicker 12.5mm drives.

All this digression isn't quite right for an intro: We're here to examine two more 500GB notebook drives of standard physical size that will fit into any notebook. We review them more from a desktop-use perspective, as we've encouraged using notebook drives for achieving the lowest noise levels in PCs for many years. (See the 2004 article, Is the Silent PC Future 2.5-inches wide?) Still, readers looking for a new replacement HDD for ther laptop will find much that's useful for them.

Until the very best of the latest generation 5400rpm and 5900rpm desktop drives appeared on the scene, the quietest notebooks had a clear edge over 3.5" drives in terms of acoustics and vibration. Airborne acoustics of the quietest 2.5" and 3.5" drives are now so close that it's hard to call; they're both extremely quiet. For vibration, a good 2.5" drive has an intrinsic advantage: It has much less moving mass than the latters in the 3.5" drives, and this usually translates to less vibration-caused noise. These are generalizations, not hard and fast rules, and many exceptions abound.

The Seagate Momentus 7200.4 500GB is a 7200rpm model; we tested the 5400rpm version earlier. The higher spindle speed usually translates to higher performance, also reflected in a price that's a bit higher than that for 5400rpm models. The Travelstar 5K500.B is our first look at a Hitachi at the 500GB capacity.

SEAGATE MOMENTUS 7200.4 500GB

The 4th iteration of Seagate's Momentus 7200 line is available in 160GB, 250GB,
320GB, and 500GB flavors, all with 16MB of cache. The 320 and 500GB versions
are two-platter drives while the smaller 160 and 250GB varieties only have a
single spinning disk inside. As always, Seagate offers models with G-Force shock
protection, though our sample lacks that particular feature.



Our 7200.4 sample.


Seagate Momentus 7200.4: Key Features & Benefits

(from product
overview
)
FEATURE & BRIEF Our Comment
Highest available notebook performance increases
productivity in all environments
But at what cost?
Sata 3Gb/s interface with Native Command
Queuing (NCQ) and command ordering
Standard. NCQ isn't really beneficial
in a laptop environment.
16-MB cache on every capacity. Twice the standard amount.
Green features:

* Leverages Seagate laptop power management technology, delivering the lowest-power
7200-RPM laptop hard drive yet

* Utilizes ramp load features that remove the head from the disk during
idle periods, improving idle power consumption and adding to the durability
of the drive
Head parking is not new; it does save on energy use.
Optional G-Force Protection feature adds
another layer of robustness for road warriors
Only drives with model numbers ending
in "ASG" have G-Force protection. Our sample is an "AS."
QuietStep technology enables ultra-quiet
load/unload acoustics
We'll see what "ultra-quiet"
means.
State-of-the-art cache and on-the-fly error-correction
algorithms
Okay.
Fluid dynamic bearing motor for quiet operation Standard on all consumer HDDs for several years.
Support for S.M.A.R.T. drive monitoring
and reporting
Okay, now they're really reaching for
extra features.



Seagate Momentus 7200.4 500GB: Specifications
(from the product
manual
)
Model Number ST9500420AS
Capacity 500GB
Cache 16MB
Disks / Heads 2 / 4
Interface SATA 3Gb/s
Spindle Speed 7,200 rpm
Internal Transfer Rate (Maximum) 1.23 Gb/s
Average Seek:
(Read / Write)
11.0 / 13.0 msec
Average Latency 4.17 msec
Weight 110 grams (0.238 lb)
Power: Idle / Seek (Typical) 0.69W, 2.1W
Acoustics: Idle / Seek (Typical) 2.3 bels / 2.6 bels


 

HITACHI TRAVELSTAR 5K500.B

The 5K500.B is the top of a line of models with capacities of 120, 160, 250, 320, 400 and 500GB. Hitachi markets them as "high-capacity, eco-friendly storage for notebook PCs and mobile applications."



Our 5K500.B sample.
Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B: Key Features & Benefits

(from product
datasheet
)
FEATURE & BRIEF Our Comment
Lowest power consumption in its class

- 1.4W read/write power


- 0.5W low power idle
Sounds good, we'll measure.
Sata 3Gb/s interface Standard.
Halogen-free for eco-friendly footprint Nice.

Best protection against bumps and rough handling

-
400G operating shock

- 1000G non-operating shock

Sounds good.
Better soft error rate for improved reliability with
Altitude-sensing Thermal Fly-height Control (TFC)
Said to be "an improved actuator latch and 4th gen perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) head technology."
Quiet acoustics We'll check.
Security: Bulk Data Encryption option helps safeguard data in the event of system theft or loss Okay, but our model was not BDE equipped.
Up to 875Mb/s media transfer rate for excellent application performance in PCMark Vantage testing Performance differences between HDDs of the same capacity, spindle speed and cache are usually trivial.
Enhanced Availability (EA)— optimizeed for reliable 24x7 operation In embedding computing, for example. Our sample was not an EA model.



Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B: Specifications

(from product
datasheet
)
Model Number HTS545050B9A300
Capacity 500GB
Cache 8MB
Disks / Heads 2 / 4
Interface SATA 3Gb/s
Spindle Speed 5400rpm
Media Transfer Rate (Maximum) 875 Mb/s
Average Seek (Read)

12 msec
Average Latency 5.5 msec
Weight (we measured) 100 grams
Power: Sleep, Standby, Low power idle, Active Idle, Performance Idle, Read / Write, Seek, Startup max peak 0.1W, 0.2W, 0.5, 0.8W, 1.3W, 1.4W, 1.7W. 4.5W
Acoustics: Idle / Seek (Typical) 2.4 bels / 2.6 bels

It's interesting to note that Hitachi provides power specs for many states, including some not mentioned in the table above. Does the drive actually move into all these various power states based on usage/demand? We may try to find out... but the differences between some of the states is very small so it may be difficult as we don't have a data logging fuction for DC power measurements.

TESTING

Our samples were tested according to our standard
hard drive testing methodology
. A significant change in our testing procedure is that as of mid-2008, we're conducting most acoustics tests in our own 10~11 dBA anechoic chamber, which results in more accurate, lower SPL readings than before, especially as the SPL approaches 20 dBA and below, which is the territory of laptop drives. Our methodology focuses specifically on
noise, and great effort is taken to ensure it is comprehensively measured
and described. Performance is covered only lightly, for reasons discussed in detail in the methodology article.

Two forms of hard drive noise are measured:

  1. Airborne acoustics
  2. Vibration-induced noise.

These two types of noise impact the subjective
perception of hard drive noise differently depending on how and where the drive
is mounted.

Both forms of noise are evaluated objectively and
subjectively. Airborne acoustics are measured in our anechoic chamber using a lab reference
microphone and computer audio measurement system
. Measurements are taken at a distance of one meter from the top
of the drive using an A-weighted filter. Vibration noise is rated on a scale
of 1-10 by comparing against our standard reference drives.

Summary of primary HDD testing tools:

A final caveat: As with most reviews, our comments
are relevant to the samples we tested. Your sample may not be identical. There
are always some sample variances, and manufacturers also make changes without
telling everyone.

Ambient conditions at time of testing were 10.5 dBA and 22°C.



Seagate label.




Hitachi label.

PERFORMANCE



HD Tach results for Seagate Momentus 7200.4 500GB





HD Tach results for Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B

According to HD Tach, the Momentus 7200.4 has an average read speed of about
85MB/s, which is 16-18MB/s better than the Hitachi 5K500.B as well as other Seagate and WD 5400rpm 500GB
notebook drives
. Its read speed puts it in a class similar to the Samsung
EcoGreen 500GB and WD Green 2TB. These 3.5" drives have much higher areal density, which seems to compensate for the lower
rotational speed. Random access times were similar as well. All this indicates that the Momentus 7200.4 500GB is a pretty speedy, especially for a notebook drive.

The Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B 500GB was similar in performance to the other 500GB 5400rpm notebook drive, except for random access time, which was slower by 2~3ms, at least on HD Tach.

HD TACH RESULTS COMPARISON
Drive
Random Access
Avg Read
Seagate Barracuda LP 2TB
14.9ms
97MB/s
Seagate Pipeline HD .2 500GB
18.6ms
96MB/s
Seagate Pipeline HD .2 1TB
15.0ms
95MB/s
Samsung EcoGreen F2 500GB
16.7ms
87MB/s
Seagate Momentus 7200.4 500GB
16.9ms
85MB/s
WD Green WD20EADS 2TB
17.9ms
82MB/s
Seagate Pipeline HD 500GB
17.7ms
75MB/s
WD Scorpio Blue 500GB
16.9ms
69MB/s
Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B 500GB
20.3ms
67MB/s
Seagate Momentus 5400.6 500GB
18.1ms
67MB/s
Notebook drives in blue. 5400/5900rpm desktop drives
in green.

HD Tune results were slightly different than HD Tach, with a bit slower transfer rate for both tested drives and a touch quicker access time for the Hitachi.





ACOUSTICS

Our Momentus 7200.4 sample had excellent acoustics — 14 [email protected] at
idle, and only 15 [email protected] during seek. The idle whirl was noticeably quieter
and less hollow-sounding than its 5400.6 brother. It did have a touch
of whine, which was only noticeable in close. Seeks were fairly muted and difficult
to detect from one meter. These results would be excellent for any 7200rpm drive,
let alone a 2.5" variety.



At idle.


The Momentus 7200.4 was very quiet.

The Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B 500GB also had excellent acoustics, matching the Momentus 7200.4 with 14 [email protected] in idle and no more about about 1 dBA higher in seek.



The 5K500.B also exhibited extremely low noise; seek noise was nearly identical.

VIBRATION & POWER

The level of vibration was slightly lower with the Hitachi 5K500.B, which is as it should be, since it is a 5400rpm drive. The Seagate exhibited about the same level of vibration as the last couple 7200rpm notebook drives we tested, the Seagate Momentus 7200.2 160GB and the Hitachi Travelstar 7K100 100GB.

The power consumed by the Hitachi was a low 0.7W in idle. The maximum power peak in any of the testing was just 2.2W. This is the lowest measured power of any test HDD, by a very small margin over the Seagate Momentus 5400.4 500GB. The claims at other power points could not be established, because it was very difficult to identify the different states.

The Momentus was also very miserly, despite its high speed and performance. A 0.3~0.4W increase in power over the slower 5400rpm drives seems quite reasonable.

HDD

Mfg date

firmware version
Vibration

1-10

(10 = no vibration)
Activity State

Airborne Acoustics

([email protected])

Measured

Power

Seagate Momentus 7200.4 500GB ST9500420AS

March 2009

firmware 0002SDM1
7
Idle
14
1.1 W (0.9 W heads unloaded)
Seek
15
2.5W peak
Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B 500GB

Feb 2009

firmware PB4OC60G
8
Idle
14
0.7W (0.6 W heads unloaded)
Seek
15
2.2W peak

DRIVE COMPARISON

Our Seagate 7200.4 sample measured lower than the 5400rpm 500GB notebook drives tested in the spring. It generated slightly
less noise (1 dB) than the Scorpio Blue 500GB, but had a touch more vibration
— though you'd be hard-pressed to tell the two apart in a blind-test — we'll
say they're both about a 7 out of 10 on our scale. The 500GB Momentus 5400.6 from the spring vibrated noticeably less than the new Momentus 7200.4 but it was 2-3 dBA louder. The Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B was the best of this 500GB mix, matching the airborne acoustics of the Seagate 7200.4 and vibration as low as we've measured on any drive.

ALL HDDS TESTED IN ANECHOIC CHAMBER
Drive

Mfg date

firmware version
Vibration

1-10

(10 = no vibration)
Activity State

Airborne Acoustics

([email protected])

Measured

Power

CURRENT REVIEW SUBJECTS
Seagate Momentus 7200.4 500GB ST9500420AS

March 2009

firmware 0002SDM1
7
Idle
14
1.1 W (0.9 W heads unloaded)
Seek
15
2.35 W
Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B 500GB

Feb 2009

firmware PB4OC60G
8
Idle
14
0.7W (0.6 W heads unloaded)
Seek
15
2.2 W
NOTEBOOK DRIVES
8
Idle
13
0.75 W
Seek (AAM)
2.35 W
Seek
15
Seagate Momentus 5400.6 500GB ST9500325ASG

February 2009

firmware 0001SDM1
8
Idle
16
0.8 W (0.65 W heads unloaded)
Seek
18
2.2 W
WD Scorpio Blue 500GB WD5000BEVT

September 2008

firmware 01.01A01
7
Idle
15
0.95 W (0.8 W heads unloaded)
Seek (Normal)
16
2.5 W
DESKTOP DRIVES
Drive

Mfg date

firmware version
Vibration

1-10

(10 = no vibration)
Activity State

Airborne Acoustics

([email protected])

Measured

Power

Seagate Pipeline HD .2 500GB ST3500414CS

March 2009

firmware SC13
8
Idle
13
2.7 W
Seek
13~14
6.7 W
Samsung F2 EcoGreen 500GB HD502HI

February 2009

firmware 1AG01114
8
Idle
12
3.2 W
Seek (AAM)
15
5.3 W
Seek (Normal)
16
6.1 W
WD Caviar Green

2TB WD20EADS


February 2009

firmware 01.00A01
7
Idle
13
6.4 W (4.0W heads unloaded)
Seek (AAM)
6.5 W
Seek (Normal)
13~14
6.5 W
Seagate Pipeline HD .2 1TB ST31000424CS

April 2009

firmware SC13
7
Idle
12
4.3 W
Seek
16
7.3 W
Seagate Pipeline HD

500GB ST3500321CS


July 2008

firmware SC14
6
Idle
14
4.1 W
Seek
15
6.9 W
Seagate Barracuda LP 2TB ST32000542AS

June 2009

firmware CC32
6
Idle
14
4.7W
Seek
17
7.9W
Seagate Pipeline HD Pro

1TB ST31000533CS


September 2008

firmware SC15
4
Idle
15
7.1 W
Seek
16
10.1 W
WD VelociRaptor WD3000GLFS

300GB, 10K RPM

15 May 2008

firmware 03.03V01
8

[w/o frame]
Idle
15
8.2 W
Seek (AAM)
20
12.2 W
Seek (Normal)
22
12.2 W
WD Caviar SE16

640GB WD6400AAKS

February 2008

firmware 01.03B01
7
Idle
16
6.8 W
Seek (AAM)
16~17
8.1 W
Seek (Normal)
18~19
9.3 W
Samsung F1

750GB HD753LJ


February 2008

firmware 1AA01109
6
Idle
16
6.9 W
Seek (AAM)
18~19
8.9 W
Seek (Normal)
20~21
10.2 W
Seagate 7200.11

1.5TB ST31500341AS


October 2008

firmware SD17
4
Idle
17
8.8 W
Seek
19
10.7 W
WD Caviar Black

1TB WD1001FALS


July 2008

firmware 05.00K05
4
Idle
21
8.5 W
Seek (AAM)
10.9 W
Seek (Normal)
25
11.0 W


AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR's own 11
dBA ambient anechoic chamber
, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s.
We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from
the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what
we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds
in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer
or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient
noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware
that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from
one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The recordings start with 5 to 10 seconds of ambient noise, then 10 second
segments of the drive in the following states: idle, seek with AAM enabled (if
applicable), and seek with AAM disabled (if applicable).

Comparatives:

CONCLUSIONS

Seagate Momentus 7200.4 500GB - We're at a loss to explain how this 7200rpm drive can be quieter
than the 5400rpm Momentus 500GB with the same number of platters that we reviewed in the spring. Perhaps one or both of our samples are atypical —
it's hard to say one way or the other without a few more samples of both models. Regardless, our Seagate
Momentus 7200.4 500GB sample was surprisingly quiet, beating out the 5400.6
by 2~3 [email protected] It does vibrate a bit more though, making its overall acoustics
similar to the WD Scorpio Blue 500GB. In a laptop, this difference may indirectly
make it noisier than the 5400.6.

The 7200.4 performs
well, in league with some of the "green" desktop drives with reduced
rotational speeds. It's a bit slower than most 7200rpm desktop drives, but the difference is not big. It also uses very little power, only marginally more than a 5400rpm 2.5" drive.

As we reported a few days ago, inside a Scythe Quiet Drive 2.5, it is a cheap silent alternative to a solid state drive. Slower, for sure, but higher capacity than you could get from any SSD for even 10 times the price.

Travelstar 5K500.B 500GB - Hitachi's half terabyte 5400rpm notebook drive is a nice addition to the available options for consumers. It's very quiet, matching the Momentus 7200.4 500GB sample vibrates very little, and is very modest in its power consumption. It beats out the other two 500GB 5400rpm notebook drives we've tested, the WD Scorpio Blue and the Momentus 5400.6, for both acoustics and power. Performance is similar, except for random access, which is a touch slower. We doubt the random access speed difference will be noticed in actual use, especially in a notebook computer.

The Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B 500GB and the Seagate Momentus 7200.4 500GB are both fine hard drives, whether used in a desktop PC or a portable, and can be confidently recommended, especially for any computer user who seeks to minimize noise.


Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B 500GB and Seagate Momentus 7200.4 500GB

are both Recommended by SPCR


Many thanks Seagate
and Hitachi for the product samples.

* * *

SPCR Articles of Related Interest:

SPCR's Hard Drive Testing
Methodology


SPCR's Recommended Hard Drives

5900rpm
Seagate Hard Drives: Barracuda LP, Pipeline HD .2


Samsung
F2 EcoGreen HD502HI: Silent 500GB 3.5" HDD


WD
Caviar Green 2TB & Seagate Pipeline HD 500GB


Momentus
5400.6 & Scorpio Blue: Seagate & WD 2.5" HDDs at 500GB


Seagate Pipeline HD Pro 1TB
Hard Drive


Scythe Quiet Drive 2.5

* * *

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